Data Visualization and Electronic Health Records Home

Fig. 1: Medical lifeline of Lis Hansen
Medical lifeline of Lis Hansen

Fig. 2: Screen for showing and recording bronchial biopsies
Screen for showing and recording bronchial biopsies

Fig. 3: Including lab results and patient services
Patient services on the lifeline

Fig. 4: Order medicine
Order medicine

Fig. 5: Give medicine - nurse task
Nurse screen


Uvis allows IT-interested users to develop complex data visualization screens. "Programming" the screens is done by formulas much like spreadsheet formulas. Real programming is not needed. The user interface can use data from an existing relational database. It can be a stand-alone system or an extension of an existing application. We implemented the tool and used it to develop an electronic health record system (EHR) with advanced data visualization: Visualization of health records (pdf, 2015) , Visualization with formulas (pdf, 2013)

Try the tool

You can download a free trial version for MS Windows. It contains the development tool, the EHR database and the screens. Unpack the zip file to a folder called for instance UvisTrial. Open the Readme file to see how to run it, design screens, etc. You don't have to install anything:

Fig. 1 shows a screen with a patient's medical lifeline. The doctor can see how the patient's diseases (diagnoses) and medications extend over time. The height of a medication bar indicates the daily dose of medicine. You can drag the time scale at the top to zoom in and out. In the top panel, icons indicate when doctors wrote notes about the patient. You can click on the icon to see the text or double-click to see a traditional list of the notes.

This screen was developed in 6 hours by a person who knew Uvis well and knew the relational database behind. We made it early 2012 as the first functional prototype of a health record system.

Fig. 2 was designed two months later by a heart surgeon, who often made bronchoscopy. He wanted a diagram of the bronchia where he could note where he took samples, how the sample was taken and what the later lab results showed. He can enter this data by clicking on the diagram and on the icons at the right. Eventually, the lab results would arrive automatically to the EHR database. He can enter traditional text about the sample in the text boxes. This screen was developed in 4 hours.

The basic Uvis principle is the same as in many other tools: The developer drags components to the screen and specifies their properties, such as top, left and color. The new thing is that the properties can be formulas that compute top, color, etc. from properties in other components and from data base contents. The rows property specifies a query to the database. It causes the component to generate a clone of itself for each row that the query returns. The entire life line screen has 7 components with a rows property, e.g. one that generates all the diagnosis boxes. The screen shows in 0.7 seconds on a standard PC. It draws on a public table of 22,000 possible diagnoses and a public table of 5,000 types of medicine.

All medical data

As part of the project, we have developed our own version of a health record database - just to prove that we can cover all medical data with a small number of tables. This makes it easy to visualize all data, but in principle we can visualize data from any relational database - health-related or not.

In 2014 our health record database included all kinds of medical information: 17,000 kinds of lab tests, 17,000 other kinds of patient services (including X-ray pictures, etc.), tables of clinical users and organizations. The table of medicine types is now supplemented with a table of 13,000 drugs with trade names. Patient-specific data is covered by 10 tables. One thing we don't try to cover is billing and accounting. In total the system comprises 26 tables, including simple tables such as a list of urgency codes.

Fig. 3 shows a more comprehensive lifeline including lab tests and other kinds of services. Services are shown in a standard way. Services with numerical results are automatically shown as a simple line graph, other services as boxes similar to the medicine boxes. Some services can be shown in a special way when you click their box. The bronchial screen above is an example of a "special way". New special presentations can be added on a departmental basis. There are screens for ordering medicine (Fig. 4) and giving medicine (Fig. 5), ordering services, etc. In total around 20 screens, all made with Uvis formulas.

Anonymizing a large health record database

As part of the uVis project, we anonymized a large relational database of electronic health records. This was much harder than anticipated. Structured data in the tables were relatively easy, but identifying data could also hide in free-text notes. We also had to ensure consistency so that data still gave a correct picture of the patient's medical history: Preserving (pdf, 13 pages, 2016)

Working papers

Uvis Reference Card. Print on both sides and fold: Download (pdf)

2013: Soren Lauesen: The Uvis project. 10 pages: Download (pdf)

2013: Soren Lauesen, Mohammad A. Kuhail, Kostas Pandazos, Shangjin Xu, and Mads B. Andersen: Uvis - Visualization and interaction with a drag-drop-formula tool, 16 pages: Download (pdf)

2012: Soren Lauesen, Mohammad A. Kuhail, Kostas Pandazos, Shangjin Xu and Mads B. Andersen: Extending applications with visualization, 9 pages: Download (pdf)

2012: Soren Lauesen, Mohammad A. Kuhail, Kostas Pandazos, Shangjin Xu and Mads B. Andersen: A drag-drop-formula tool for custom visualization, 10 pages: Download (pdf)

2009: Soren Lauesen: VisTool (later: Uvis) for data visualization, 18 pages. This is the original document that described the principle and visions behind the tool.: Download (pdf)

2009: Soren Lauesen: Requirements specification for VisTool (later: Uvis) - a development tool for complex data visualization, 51 pages. This is the original requirements specification for the tool: Download (pdf).

Ph.D. theses

2013: Kostas Pantazos: Custom Visualization without Real Programming, 207 pages: Download (pdf)

2012: Mohammad A. Kuhail: Custom Formula-Based Visualizations for Savvy Designers, 147 pages: Download (pdf)

2012: Shangjin Xu: VisTool - A user interface and visualization development system, 132 pages: Download (pdf)

Peer-reviewed papers

2016: Kostas Pantazos and Soren Lauesen: End-User Development of Visualizations, 10 pages. Journal of Imaging Science and Technology, 60(1): 010408-1-010408-10, 2016: Download (pdf)

2016: Kostas Pantazos, Soren Lauesen and Soren Lippert: Preserving medical correctness, readability and consistency in de-identified health records, 13 pages, Health Informatics Journal, DOI: 10.1177/1460458216647760: Download (pdf)

2013: Kostas Pantazos, Mohammad A. Kuhail, Soren Lauesen, Shangjin Xu: Uvis Studio - An Integrated Development Environment for Visualization. In Proc. of Visualization and Data Analysis, page 15-30, 2013: Download (pdf)

2013: Mohammad A. Kuhail, Kostas Pantazos, Soren Lauesen: The Inspector: A Cognitive Artefact for Visual Mapping. Proceedings of IVAPP 2013.

2012: Kostas Pantazos, Soren Lauesen: Constructing Visualizations with InfoVis Tools - An Evaluation from a User Perspective. In Proc. of GRAPP/IVAPP, page 731-736, 2012: Download (pdf)

2012: Mohammad A. Kuhail, Soren Lauesen: Customizable Visualizations with Formula-linked Building Blocks. In GRAPP/IVAPP, pages 768-771, 2012.

2012: Mohammad A. Kuhail, Kostas Pandazo, Soren Lauesen: Customizable Time-Oriented Visualizations. In ISVC (2), pages 668-677, 2012.

2012: Mohammad A. Kuhail, Soren Lauesen, Kostas Pantazos, Shangjin Xu: Usability Analysis of Custom Visualization Tools. In SIGRAD 2012 proceedings, pages 19-28.

2011: Kostas Pantazos, Soren Lauesen & Soren Lippert (2011): De-identifying an EHR database - Anonymity, Correctness and Readability of the Medical Record. Proceedings of MIE2011: Download (pdf)

2011: Kostas Pantazos: Engaging Clinicians in the Visualization Design Process - Is It Possible?: In Proc. Workshop on Visual Analytics in Healthcare (VAHC) in conjunction with IEEE VisWeek, page 40-43, 2011: Download (pdf)